Asafoetida is a dried latex powder that comes from the root of an herb plant called ferula. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered to be really good for digestion and overall health, often added to beans and lentil dishes to prevent indigestion.
I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with asafoetida, or hing as we call it in Gujarati. Even though it is traditionally an extremely common ingredient in Indian cooking, I don’t often cook with it and when I do, I always use it in extremely tiny quantities (no more than a tiny pinch).
I am not sure whether it’s the unpleasant odor that keeps me away or just laziness (avoiding opening yet another container of spices). But few days ago I was flipping through Cooking with My Indian Mother-in-Law (by Simon Daley and Roshan Hirani), a wonderful cookbook about Gujarati Muslim home cooking, and came across a recipe for cabbage that called for a full half teaspoon of asafoetida.
I wouldn’t normally use that much asafoetida in a whole month’s worth of cooking! It seemed very unusual to me but I was intrigued. Would the flavor be overpowering? Would the cabbage smell funky?
I decided to be brave and try it.
I really liked it. The asafoetida imparts a smooth onion-y flavor that is delicious with the cabbage. Now I feel like I’ve been missing out on a really interesting ingredient in my spice cabinet.
I’ll definitely be experimenting with asafoetida a lot more from now on!
Cabbage Saute with Mustard and Asafoetida (Sambharo)
- ½ cabbage cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1 carrot cut into thin sticks
- 1 serrano or jalapeno chili seeds and veins removed if you don’t like it spicy
- 1 tbsp oil
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp asafoetida
- 15 to 20 curry leaves optional, substitute for cilantro if you can’t find curry leaves
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice freshly squeezed
- Heat oil in a wide saute pan.
- When the oil begins to shimmer, add mustard seeds, asafoetida, green chili, and curry leaves (don’t add now if using cilantro, add at the end).
- Toss in the cabbage, carrot, turmeric, and salt. Mix well.
- Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until the cabbage has softened but still has a crunch.
- Cook uncovered until the liquid cooks out.
- Turn off heat and add in the lemon juice (and cilantro). Mix well.
- Serve hot or cold.